Long Texts for Fall 2014

Descriptions of long texts provided by Amazon.com, except where noted otherwise. All books are available for purchase from the Transylvania University Bookstore, 132 West Third Street.

The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution by Denis Dutton

Professor Tim Polashek, Music
Section 11, MWF 1:30-2:20

The Art Instinct combines two of the most fascinating and contentious disciplines, art and evolutionary science, in a provocative new work that will revolutionize the way art itself is perceived. Aesthetic taste, argues Denis Dutton, is an evolutionary trait, and is shaped by natural selection. It's not, as almost all contemporary art criticism and academic theory would have it, "socially constructed." The human appreciation for art is innate, and certain artistic values are universal across cultures, such as a preference for landscapes that, like the ancient savannah, feature water and distant trees. If people from Africa to Alaska prefer images that would have appealed to our hominid ancestors, what does that mean for the entire discipline of art history? Dutton argues, with forceful logic and hard evidence, that art criticism needs to be premised on an understanding of evolution, not on abstract "theory." Sure to provoke discussion in scientific circles and an uproar in the art world, The Art Instinct offers radical new insights into both the nature of art and the workings of the human mind.


Belonging: A Culture of Place by bell hooks

Professor Kerri Hauman, Writing, Rhetoric, and Communication
Section 10, MWF 2:30–3:20

What does it mean to call a place home? Who is allowed to become a member of a community? When can we say that we truly belong?

Belonging charts a cyclical journey in which the author moves from place to place, from country to city and back again, only to end where she began—her old Kentucky home.

Reflecting on the fact that 90 percent of all black people lived in the agrarian South before mass migration to northern cities in the early 1900s, hooks writes about black farmers, about black folks who have been committed both in the past and in the present to local food production, and to finding solace in nature. She also writes about segregation in housing and economic racialized zoning. In her essays, hooks finds surprising connections that link the environment and sustainability to the politics of race and class that reach far beyond Kentucky.


Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life by Dacher Keltner

Professor Amy Maupin, Education
Section 04, MWF 10:30–11:20

In this startling study of human emotion, Dacher Keltner investigates an unanswered question of human evolution: If humans are hardwired to lead lives that are “nasty, brutish, and short,” why have we evolved with positive emotions like gratitude, amusement, awe, and compassion that promote ethical action and cooperative societies?

Illustrated with more than 50 photographs of human emotions, Born to Be Good takes us on a journey through scientific discovery, personal narrative, and Eastern philosophy. Positive emotions, Keltner finds, lie at the core of human nature and shape our everyday behavior—and they just may be the key to understanding how we can live our lives better.


The Carpenter's Pencil: A Novel of the Spanish Civil War by Manuel Rivas

Professor Veronica Dean-Thacker, Spanish
Section 01, MWF 8:30–9:20

Set in the dark days of the Spanish Civil War, The Carpenter's Pencil charts the linked destinies of a remarkable cast of unique characters. All are bound by the events of the Civil War—the artists and the peasants alike—and all are brought to life, in Rivas's skillful hand, with the power of the carpenter's pencil, a pencil that draws both the measured line and the artist's dazzling vision.


The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Professor Gary Deaton, Writing, Rhetoric, and Communication
Section 09, MWF 1:30–2:20

Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to "Mister," a brutal man who terrorizes her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister's letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.


Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect by David W. Orr

Professor Richard Taylor, English
Section 17, TTh 1:30–2:45

In Earth in Mind, noted environmental educator David W. Orr focuses not on problems in education, but on the problem of education.

Much of what has gone wrong with the world, he argues, is the result of inadequate and misdirected education that alienates us from life in the name of human domination; causes students to worry about how to make a living before they know who they are; overemphasizes success and careers; separates feeling from intellect and the practical from the theoretical; and deadens the sense of wonder for the created world.

The crisis we face, Orr explains, is one of mind, perception, and values. It is, first and foremost, an educational challenge.


Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger

Professor Maurice Manning, English
Section 16, TTh 1:30–2:45

The two interrelated stories, originally published in The New Yorker magazine, concern Franny and Zooey Glass, two members of the family that was the subject of most of Salinger's short fiction. Franny is an intellectually precocious late adolescent who tries to attain spiritual purification by obsessively reiterating the "Jesus prayer" as an antidote to the perceived superficiality and corruptness of life. She subsequently suffers a nervous breakdown. In the second story, her next older brother, Zooey, attempts to heal Franny by pointing out that her constant repetition of the "Jesus prayer" is as self-involved and egotistical as the egotism against which she rails.


Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Professor Lee Fortner, First-Year Seminar
Section 12, MWF 12:30–1:20
Section 15, MWF 2:30–3:20

In contrast to recent books by Michael Lewis and Dinesh D'Souza that explore the lives and psyches of the New Economy's millionaires, Ehrenreich turns her gimlet eye on the view from the workforce's bottom rung. Determined to find out how anyone could make ends meet on $7 an hour, she left behind her middle class life as a journalist except for $1,000 in start-up funds, a car, and her laptop computer to try to sustain herself as a low-skilled worker for a month at a time.

In 1999 and 2000, Ehrenreich worked as a waitress in Key West, Fla., as a cleaning woman and a nursing home aide in Portland, Maine, and in a Wal-Mart in Minneapolis, Minn. During the application process, she faced routine drug tests and spurious "personality tests"; once on the job, she endured constant surveillance and numbing harangues over infractions like serving a second roll and butter. Beset by transportation costs and high rents, she learned the tricks of the trade from her co-workers, some of whom sleep in their cars, and many of whom work when they're vexed by arthritis, back pain, or worse, yet still manage small gestures of kindness.

Despite the advantages of her race, education, good health, and lack of children, Ehrenreich's income barely covered her month's expenses in only one instance, when she worked seven days a week at two jobs (one of which provided free meals) during the off-season in a vacation town. Delivering a fast read that's both sobering and sassy, she gives readers pause about those caught in the economy's undertow, even in good times.


The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Professor Carole Barnsley, Religion
Section 02, MWF 9:30–10:20

Professor Iva Katzarska-Miller, Psychology
Section 13, TTh 9:30–10:45

The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.


The Republic of Plato (translated and introduced by Allan Bloom)

Professor Frank Russell, History and Classics
Section 05, MWF 10:30–11:20

Plato’s Republic is a foundational text for the consideration of justice in the lives of people and states. It is written in the form of a dialogue between Socrates and his friends, who debate different ideas of what justice might be, and how these might support or undermine a good life. Plato also imagines an ideal state to embody and enact ideas of justice—one which has influenced, for good or ill, leaders and founders of states from his day until our own.


Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Professor Tim Soulis, Theater
Section 06, MWF 10:30–11:20
Section 07, MWF 11:30–12:20

In the novel Siddhartha, a young man leaves his family for a contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the flesh. He conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique sound. This sound signals the true beginning of his life—the beginning of suffering, rejection, peace, and, finally, wisdom.


Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Professor Brian Arganbright, French
Section 08, MWF 11:30–12:20

Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.


Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Professor Jeff Hopper, Business Administration
Section 11, TTh 11–12:15

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, the renowned psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical.

The impact of overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next vacation—each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions.


The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature by Daniel Levitin

Professor Larry Barnes, Music

Section 12, MWF 1:30-2:20

Daniel J. Levitin's astounding debut bestseller, This Is Your Brain on Music, enthralled and delighted readers as it transformed our understanding of how music gets in our heads and stays there. Now in his second New York Times bestseller, his genius for combining science and art reveals how music shaped humanity across cultures and throughout history.

Dr. Levitin identifies six fundamental song functions or types-friendship, joy, comfort, religion, knowledge, and love-then shows how each in its own way has enabled the social bonding necessary for human culture and society to evolve. He shows, in effect, how these "six songs" work in our brains to preserve the emotional history of our lives and species.

Dr. Levitin combines cutting-edge scientific research from his music cognition lab at McGill University and work in an array of related fields; his own sometimes hilarious experiences in the music business; and illuminating interviews with musicians such as Sting and David Byrne, as well as conductors, anthropologists, and evolutionary biologists. The World in Six Songs is, ultimately, a revolution in our understanding of how human nature evolved-right up to the iPod.


Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon

Professor Bethany Packard, English
Section 03, MWF 9:30–10:20

For sixty years Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a "temporary" safe haven created in the wake of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. The Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan panhandle, a vibrant and complex frontier city that moves to the music of Yiddish. But now the District is set to revert to Alaskan control, and their dream is coming to an end.

Homicide detective Meyer Landsman of the District Police has enough problems without worrying about the upcoming Reversion. His life is a shambles, his marriage a wreck, his career a disaster. And in the cheap hotel where Landsman has washed up, someone has just committed a murder—right under his nose. When he begins to investigate the killing of his neighbor, a former chess prodigy, word comes down from on high that the case is to be dropped immediately, and Landsman finds himself contending with all the powerful forces of faith, obsession, evil, and salvation that are his heritage.